Six Noises’ 2015 Extravaganza: New Zealand Noise
Welcome to the seventh post of Six Noises’ 2015 end-of-year shenanigans. I’ve been letting fly with lists cataloguing first-rate metal, punk, experimental rock, and now (in this last post) riotous New Zealand albums. None of the posts are ranked, because all I really want to do is recommend a whole heap of great music.
Cheers for stopping by my list of favourite noisy New Zealand albums from 2015. Admittedly, if you’re an NZ music buff, you might get to the end of the list below and think to yourself that a few names are missing. That’s probably because you know more about NZ music than I do. Or I forgot to include a band or two, which totally will have happened, so stay tuned for the inevitable updates.
Truthfully, I don’t keep my finger on the pulse of that many streams of NZ music. I mainly just stumble around in the dark looking for underground punk, metal, and experimental rock. But, even then, I’m basically just a confused old man, and I’m well out of the loop most of the time. That’s really not much of problem for me, because I’ve never aimed to cover every single release that I potentially could. I’m never going to cover a band for any self-serving clickbait reasons, or to satisfy anyone’s ego, least of all my own. So, if you’re wondering why X or Y band isn’t on the list below, then either I didn’t hear them or I thought their music was utter garbage––c’est la vie, mate.
Also, I generally (but not always) ignore the more commercial arm of NZ hard rock, metal, and punk. That’s not where my tastes lie. And covering music from that sphere definitely isn’t Six Noises’ raison d’être. First and foremost, I’m here to do my part in helping to spread the word about underground NZ bands. So I hope you discover one or two new releases from a few of the more obscure bands on the list below.
As always, my eternal thanks for stopping by Six Noises. Let’s rip into it…
Meth Drinker: S/T (Zero Style and Against All Odds Productions)
Bonecruncher: S/T (self-released)
Raw Panic: S/T (Zero Style)
Spiteful Urinator makes the most ill-tempered, unsavoury and belligerent punk rock in New Zealand. But that’s no surprise considering Spiteful Urinator also features members from spirit-crushing doom collective Open Tomb, who play their crust-caked songs at the most torturous pace possible. Spiteful Urinator’s 2015 Total Onslaught compilation, and the band’s split cassette with ferocious NZ blackened grind outfit Trepanation, featured raw and defiant noise that should––if there was any justice in the world––be deemed mandatory listening. Also on the list of essential listens from 2015 is the heavyweight self-titled compilation of rarities from volatile sludge punks Meth Drinker. D-beat punks Bonecruncher got ultra-heavy (in both sonic and emotional terms) on their storming self-titled debut in 2015 as well. While fellow Wellington miscreants Raw Panic tore into rad ’n’ raw surf and old school punk on their rip-snorting self-titled debut.
(Spiteful Urinator has other uproarious releases available on the band’s Bandcamp page, including two recent covers of Oi Polloi and Anti-Pasti tracks; I recommend grabbing ’em all, forthwith. Trepanation also have other releases available on their Bandcamp page, including their essential and bloodthirsty debut, Hideous Black Abyss. Raw Panic’s label, Zero Style, also has a Bandcamp page stacked with great punk rock releases, including scuzzy NZ skate punk classics from Numbskull (Powderslave) and Johnny and The Felchers (Felchers Only! and The Last Straw).
Creeping: Revenant (Iron Bonehead and Daemon Worship)
Total Death is what Vassafor founder V.K. has always promised, and that’s exactly what his band delivered in 2015, twice over. Vassafor released the staggering, triple-disc Invocations of Darkness compilation after signing to highly-respected French label Debemur Morti Productions. The band also releases a barbaric split with Australian band Temple Nightside (Call of the Maelstrom). Both releases comprised utterly uncompromising black metal––abyssal horrorscapes, to the end. Witchrist delivered their own ruthless wares in 2015 via their savage Vritra EP (which featured Bölzer frontman and guitarist KzR on vocals) and a battering split with the mighty and always diabolically murky Antediluvian. Creeping returned in 2015 with their massive and ill-omened blackened doom masterwork Revenant, which was the band’s best work yet. Meanwhile, raw black metal villains Blood of the Moon debuted two new tracks, “And Through the Night...” and “Devourer of Flesh”, which were the band’s most vile and vicious, and best produced, works thus far.
Graves: Fides Ad Nauseam (self-released)
Bridge Burner: Mantras of Self Loathing (self-released)
In Dread Response: Heavenshore (Dreadstorm)
One Outs: S/T (self-released)
I was gutted when Graves called it a day in 2015. The band’s combative and confrontational Fides Ad Nauseam album, released early last year, was a breathtaking display of turbo-speed pummelling grind and super-aggressive hardcore. Still, grief about Graves’ demise was alleviated by the band’s guitarist, Josh Hughes, delivering an ultra-hostile EP with his new bandmates in Bridge Burner in late 2015. Bridge Burner featured more gravelled death metal in their sound, and Ben Read (frontman for melodic death metal band In Dread Response) provided intensely passionate vocals on their Mantras of Self Loathing debut. In Dread Response also released their most accomplished album to date in 2015, with the raucous riff-fest Heavenshore finding success offshore too. Finally, the One Outs’ off-the-hook self-titled EP featured punked-out powerviolence-plus delivered at a meteoric speed. The kind of wall-of-noise onslaught that could hold its own against the excellent audio barrages that bands like Graves and Bridge Burner delivered.
Dawn of Azazel: The Tides of Damocles (self-released)
Cephalopod: A Bad Case of Unreality (self-released)
Bloodfvkk: Reckless Violence (self-released)
Vargafrost: Honour, Blood, Spirit and Love (self-released)
Iron-willed death metal band Dawn of Azazel came storming back with their fourth album, The Tides of Damocles, in 2015. The band travelled to Florida’s famed Mana Recording Studios to record, mix and master their latest album, ensuring The Tides of Damocles sounded intimidatingly thickset, while delivering knockout death metal. Cephalopod somewhat (and impressively) reinvented themselves on their second release, A Bad Case of Unreality, transforming into a tighter and more technically ambitious death metal band. Auckland-based Bloodfvkk, featuring a couple of members from black metal band Exordium Mors, pulverized gruesome extreme metal elements in the most black-hearted manner on their barbaric grindcore debut, Reckless Violence. Meanwhile, heathen black metallers Vargafrost, recent signees to German label Naturmacht Productions, released Honour, Blood, Spirit and Love, a strong and atavistic sophomore album, filled with fierce and frosty second wave worship.
(I can also recommend the very raw and atmospheric black metal found on Nystagmus’ EP, Oneiric Entity, which features Winter Deluge guitarist Mort playing all the instruments, and ex-In Dread Response frontman Sean O’Kane Connolly on vocals. Or try the dark and enigmatic noise/ambient black metal found on the mysterious Haast project’s Giedd album.)
Hollywoodfun Downstairs: Reactions (self-released and Press Gang Records)
Love Mess: S/T (Press Gang Records)
Negative Capacity: S/T (Press Gang Records)
Starving Millions: III (self-released)
No band in New Zealand makes manic music like DIY punk trio Hollywoodfun Downstairs. The band’s Reactions album was a dazzling display of hyper-kinetic instrumental prowess, with jagged-edged riffs, percussive insanity, and madcap vocals all sweetened by mesmerizing pop hooks. (Look out for the LP release of Reactions via punk stalwarts Press Gang Records soon.) Press Gang also released more smashing and crashing punk rock well worth checking out in 2015. There was the full-throttle and head-splitting hardcore heard on Love Mess’ awesome debut 7″, which technically came out in Jan 2016, but I’ve included it here because it’s such a roaring success. Plus, Negative Capacity’s brute-force noise-punk/rock debut on Press Gang was pretty damn impressive too. As was Starving Millions’ self-released III album, which dealt in lean, mean, and catchy hardcore, with plenty of hurtling percussion.
(If you’re looking for more rowdy and unrefined punk rock, then check out Wizz Kids’ Humiliations EP. Recorded at the band’s practice space, Wizz Kids rip into five raw tracks that swing a dirty ol’ (Stooges-worthy) proto-punk hammer on occasion. Or try the insolent punk found on Markdown’s high-speed Boneman 7″ from 2015.)
Stone Angels: Live EP 2015 (self-released)
Sinistrous Diabolus: Live (self-released)
Lord of Solitude: Vampire Ritual/To the Devil...a Daughter (self-released)
Barshasketh: Ophidian Henosis (W.T.C)
Stone Angels released a harsh live EP in 2015 that was red-raw, gut-felt, and delivered blood-on-the-strings intensity straight from the Devil’s pulpit. Sinistrous Diabolus’ mainman (and Stone Angel guitarist) N.K.S uploaded a couple of rare and abrasive live recordings onto his death/doom band’s Bandcamp page in 2015 that documented and underscored Sinistrous Diabolus’ deep-rooted intensity as well. Lord of Solitude dealt in doom metal on their excellent Vampire Ritual/To the Devil...a Daughter release in 2015 too. Although, in Lord of Solitude’s case, the band explored the occult realm with giant amp-melting riffs inspired by the classic years of ’70s doom and stoner rock. Occult black metal band Barshasketh was originally formed in NZ by ex-Blood of the Moon guitarist Krigeist, and while the band has been based in Scotland for many years now, I’ll sneak them in here because the torrents of ice-cold (and second-wave-inspired) melodies on Barshasketh’s 2015 full-length, Ophidian Henosis, should be celebrated no matter their point of origin.
(For metal of a more experimental nature, you might like to sample Opium Eater’s single-track 18-minute debut recording Canis Major (The Greater Dog). Opium Eater’s ambitious song took in drone, sludge, post-rock, and field recordings, and it even had a neoclassical flavour, with violin joining the fray. Sure, Canis Major (The Greater Dog) was rough around the edges, but it showed enormous promise for future endeavours from Opium Eater.)
The Cavemen: S/T (1:12 Records)
The Dobermen: Cemetery Circuit (Stink Magnetic)
Knee Splitter: Phase One (self-released)
Downer Buzz: S/T (Always Never Fun Records)
The Cavemen’s self-titled debut featured trashy riffs, uncouth howls, and 100% road-rash-raw garage punk––think a vintage dose of the Cramps jamming with The Stooges. Equally swaggering, with plenty of fuck-you ’tude, was The Dobermen’s debut, Cemetery Circuit. The Dobermen went hell for leather while spoiling for a fight on the album, with their bleeding-raw garage rock and twangin’ rockabilly often humming along at motorik pace. Rungas noise merchants Downer Buzz set their helter-skelter hardcore on the boil via a deranged self-titled debut that blitzed through feedbacking and ear-piercing tracks with plenty of gutter punk sneers. Knee Splitter’s Phase One debut was heavy, hostile, and markedly feral, packing a lot of crusty grind and hardcore into explosive (and damn fine) powerviolence tracks.
(If you’re interested in more NZ garage punk, The Raw Nerves’ second full-length, More Nerves, featured scratchy and catchy riffs aplenty––plus one of the most on-point opening tracks you’ve ever heard with, “Nobody Gives a Shit About You”. If steely powerviolence is more your thing, then check out Nailgun’s Demo 2015, which was a very encouraging first effort. Or you could try Kept Out’s EP 2015, which leant closer to the hardcore end of the spectrum.)
Disjecta Membra (feat. Rob Thorne): Whakataurangi Ake (self-released)
Spook the Horses: Rainmaker (self-released)
Sunken Seas: Glass ( Muzai and Tenzenmen)
Greenfog: Bruce Farm (self-released)
Long-running gothic rock band Disjecta Membra have made a lot of dark, dramatic and haunting music, but the band’s 2015 rendition of the waiata “Whakataurangi Ake” was their most moving work yet. The band was joined on the song by Rob Thorne, who played traditional Māori instruments on one of the most beautiful and deeply soul-stirring tracks I’ve heard in years. Spook the Horses courageously reshaped and expanded the parameters of their sound on their superb 2015 album, Rainmaker, which leaves the band’s future artistic prospects in an exhilarating position. Sunken Seas released the darkest and most introspective NZ indie rock record in 2015. The band’s second full-length, Glass, combined icy shoegaze with even icier post-punk and ill-omened atmospherics, underscoring Sunken Seas’ beautifully heavy-hearted artistry. Greenfog explored shadowy places with the acid-fried drone, post-rock, and all-amps-ablazing stoner-rock on their Bruce Farm album in 2015. However, for all of Greenfog’s dives into dark and distorted rock, Bruce Farm gloried in hallucinogenic rock ’n’ roll.
Freak Magnet: S/T (self-released)
Master Blaster: Demo (self-released)
The Stungrenades: Front Toward Enemy (self-released)
Strange Love: S/T (self-released)
Wellington garage punk duo Freak Magnet’s second release featured a bunch of hook-laden and grungy tracks recorded at band member Vanya’s famed Scumbag College recording studios. (Scumbag College having already birthed an increasingly long-line of first-rate NZ punk rock releases.) Speaking of births, the demise of hardcore band Shitripper in 2015 meant the birth of Master Blaster and their self-titled demo filled with abrasive and scorching hardcore. (Shitripper has half a dozen recordings, including their final and best 7″, Brain Defect.) The Stungrenades delivered blitzkrieg pissed-off punk on their Front Towards Enemy debut. And with 11 songs delivered in less than 15 minutes, the speed and disposition of The Stungrenades’ street punk was fierce, all the fuckin’ time. Strange Love are Melbourne-based, so I’m cheating including them here. But the band sprung from Auckland outfit Two Wolves, who released one of my favourite NZ punk albums in The Roar and Peal of Distant Thunder. Strange Love mine a similar vein of punked-up alt-country, but dig deeper into dark alt-rock, meaning flashes of Nick Cave and outlaw country villains aplenty all appeared on Strange Love’s magnificent self-titled debut.
(Shall I cheat again? Why not. It’s my blog, after all. Slitzkrieg’s self-titled debut was originally released in 2014, but I didn’t hear it until early in 2015, and it certainly deserves a place on the list of albums I loved from last year. Slitzkrieg’s seven-track album was squalid, lo-fi, and crusty as hell (three ticks right there!), and saw stenchcore and hardcore tussling it out in a broken-bottle back alley battle.)
Noel Meek: Living in the Time of the Golden Circle (End of the Alphabet Records)
NoFi Rainbow Vol.2 (End of the Alphabet Records)
Crash-Scan: The Formicophilia EP (self-released)
End of the Alphabet Records released a number of significant works from outlier artists in 2015 (see MIR’s amazing In the Dust of This Planet right here, and the Pekak! Indonesian Noise 1995–2015 compilation right here.) Also worth seeking out is Living in the Time of the Golden Circle, the mind-melting debut full-length from End of the Alphabet label boss Noel Meek. Meanwhile, End of the Alphabet’s NoFi Rainbow Vol.2 compilation collected another enthralling array of weird and wonderful sounds from across NZ’s underground music spectrum. Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing’s 2015 album Scrying in Infirmary Architecture was a truly singular and genre-defying experience too. Yet, even when Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing explored the dingiest and most dissonant and disconcerting places, the album was always lit by their creative brilliance. Finally, my tolerance for contemporary industrial music is very low, but Crash-Scan’s Formicophilia EP struck a nerve––or, more accurately, got under my skin––because it featured pitch-black esoteric echoes and an always (and thoroughly) menacing temper.
Lamp of the Universe: The Inner Light of Revelation (Astral Projection)
Space Bats, Attack!: S/T (self-released)
The Chills: Silver Bullet (Fire Records)
Head Like a Hole: Narcocorrido (self-released)
Lamp of the Universe is a tripped-and-tranced-out folk, psych, and space-rock band helmed by multi-instrumentalist Craig Williamson (also of A+ celestial hard rockers Arc of Ascent). Williamson set off for a kaleidoscopic tour of the cosmos on 2015’s magnificent The Inner Light of Revelation, swathing all in an aptly mind-bending aura. Dunedin band Space Bats, Attack! also took a jaunt into the outer reaches on their self-titled full-length––blending hallucinogenic rock with madcap musical adventurism. Dunedin’s jingle-jangle indie legends The Chills were on the comeback trail in 2015. And the band’s Silver Bullets album was filled with enlivening pop anthems underscored by band leader Martin Phillipps’ deft blending of darker melancholy with sweetened melodies. And lastly, ye olde road dogs Head Like a Hole continued their comeback campaign in 2015, with their beefed-up and rousing Narcocorrido album mining a greasy, gritty and often hard-as-nails vein of (alt-)rock ’n’ roll.